Pearson’s efforts to build a strong international brand out of the
Financial Times has, it seems, begun to bear fruit. For the first time
in its 100-year history, sales of the international edition of the pink
paper now outstrip those at home.
The principal reason for this has been the canny mix of price cuts,
editorial changes and marketing efforts used on the US market over the
past year, a move inspired by Pearson’s new chief executive, Marjorie
Scardino. The Texas-born Scardino is credited with having made the
Economist a must-read in North America, and she has made it a priority
to do the same for the FT.
The FT has published in the US since the mid 80s, but sales never
reached much more than 40,000 a day. So last year Scardino dispatched
Richard Lambert, the FT’s editor-in-chief, to New York to sort things
out. Lambert tweaked the design of the North American edition, increased
editorial staff, launched a marketing drive and, in February, slashed
the cover price from dollars 1.50 to dollars 1.00.
It seems to have worked. Circulation soared in the Americas by more than
50 per cent to nearly 57,000 according to this summer’s ABC figures. And
although this appears to be slim fare against the Wall St Journal’s 1.8
million, the FT claims the WSJ is not a direct competitor.
’We didn’t set out to compete with the WSJ. What we want to do is
provide a good global perspective, to run alongside the WSJ,’ a FT
spokeswoman explains. Much of the FT’s recent success, she says, is
because world events really have been shaping the economy in recent
months. The American public have wanted to know more about turmoil in
Russia, for example, and the collapse in Asia.
Another factor, she adds, is that the FT is edited as a coherent whole,
although it appears as three different editions - Americas, Europe/Asia
and the UK. Each has the same basic design, and draws on the same pool
of stories and features and is tweaked for local markets.
A similar success in Europe has begun to unsettle the competition - the
Guardian International last month reinvented itself as Guardian
FINANCIAL TIMES CIRCULATION
Mar-Aug 98 Mar-Aug 97 % chg
Rep Ireland/other ex UK 4,859 4,088 18.9
Europe, Africa, Mid East 107,898 93,079 15.9
Americas 56,939 37,235 52.9
Asia 14,024 10,936 28.2
TOTAL (non-UK) 183,720 145,338 26.4
UK 173,983 171,541 1.4
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations